Straight Outta Compton's astounding box office numbers are the thing in which legends — and legacies — are made. The film raised the roof on every conceivable category (biopics, Black films, August releases) and easily grabbed the number-one spot at the box office with $57.4 million. To put that number in perspective, that's the expectation studios usually have for huge, four-quadrant tentpole films.
In fact, those sure-bet tentpoles like Fantastic Four and this weekend's The Man From U.N.C.L.E. have been chronically underperforming this summer, with Jurassic World the rare exception. In a beautiful twist of fate, Straight Outta Compton did to Hollywood exactly what N.W.A did to music nearly three decades ago: disrupt a system that routinely marginalizes Black voices.
Here are just a few of the statistics that make up Straight Outta Compton's success story: the film beat the openings of Mission: Impossible – Rogue Nation ($55.5M) and Ant-Man ($57.2M) — but opened to nearly 1,200 fewer screens. It's the best opening ever for a musical biopic, more than doubling Walk the Line's $22.3 million. And, finally, for a "Black" film, Straight Outta Compton appealed to a wide swath of ages, genders and ethnicities: males (59%) and females (41%), Gen Y-ers (68%) and Millennials (32%), African-American (46%), whites (23%), Latinos (21%) and Asians (4%) turned out in droves to see it.
Those kinds of numbers go far beyond niche and nostalgia. It means that the film is speaking to people on a deeper level. With Black Lives Matter and police brutality — two of the film's major themes — regularly grabbing newspaper headlines and trending on social media, maybe it's an indication that the dialogue around these issues has captured the interest of the public at large. Optimistic? Maybe. But it certainly feels like art and life have melded together seamlessly in this case.
Numbers aside, the film is being heaped with critical praise, both from actual critics and from vocal fans who have been shouting from the rooftops of Twitter that this is one not to miss. Taraji P. Henson went so far as to say the film has Oscar potential — and she's not alone. The Hollywood Reporter published a think piece echoing her sentiments.
Whichever way you slice it, Straight Outta Compton is operating on a level we rarely see in studio movies: commercially successful, artistically credible and socially relevant. It's hard to think of a better way to pay homage to the legacy of N.W.A.
Meanwhile, further down the box office chart, Mission: Impossible — Rogue Nation came in a distant second place with $17 million, Guy Ritchie's The Man From U.N.C.L.E. disappoints with $13.5 million, Fantastic Four is on its last leg in fourth place with $8 million and The Gift rounds out the top five with $6.5 million.
Next week, the field seems clear for Straight Outta Compton to capitalize on public interest to take first place once again, with its only competition coming from smaller titles like Sinister 2 and American Ultra.
Watch our interview with director F. Gary Gray below:
BET.com is your No. 1 source for Black celebrity news, photos, exclusive videos and all the latest in the world of hip hop and R&B music.
Click here to enter the #LookYourSundayBest contest for a chance to win FREE natural hair-care products.
(Photo: Universal Pictures)